A March 2002 trip
to London by jim
Quote: With no prior planning and a few days to burn in London, I wandered the city and had a really relaxing and fun time.
A few of my favorite highlights included:
- Running around and hanging out in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
- Touring the Imperial War Museum and the Tate Modern Museum.
- Trying some really great restaurants including Ginger (Indian Food), Ilba (Italian Food), Food for Thought (Vegetarian), Havelock Pub (English), and others.
- Enjoying the many parks and gardens in London, which is surprisingly green and full of people hanging out.
Wherever I went I tried to stop in a pub or a cafe and soak in the local flavor. The weather was surprisingly nice (it drizzled only once and I even got a sunburn one of the days) and not having any set plan made it easy to enjoy myself and relax.
Don't worry about checking your email from your hotel. Go to an Internet cafe and pay a small fraction of what you will pay in access fees from your hotel room. In particular, try an Easy Everything Internet Cafe if you are in the vicinity. You will find hundreds of computers and it costs only 3 pounds for 24 hours of unlimited access.
Don't even attempt to see every monument, historical site or museum. London is bursting with sites and you will drive yourself crazy if you try to see everything. Go through a guidebook, pick a few sites according to your taste and appreciate the quick glimpse of all of the other monuments and sites you pass.
When getting around London, don't be afraid to take the Tube. It is easy to navigate, and is clean and safe. Plus you can get anywhere you need to go. Of course, if you are in a hurry, taxis are very easy to catch...but they can get really expensive if this is your main mode of transportation.
Hotel | "Kensington House"
The hotel is walking distance from Kensington High Street, Harrod's, Notting Hill and of course Kensington Gardens. It is only a couple of miles from Buckingham Palace and I ended up running from the hotel to all the major sites. I never felt like I was in the middle of a tourist horde, yet I was conveniently close to everything I wanted to see.
I will definitely stay here again and I highly recommend this hotel to anyone looking for a romantic, unique hotel that represents some of the best of London.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 1, 2002
Kensington House Hotel
15 16 PRINCE OF WALES TERRACE
44 20 79372345
Hotel | "K-West"
K-West is a very stylish hotel (without being too trendy). The staff is extremely helpful and friendly. The rooms are very comfortable and spacious. And the spa and other amenities help set this hotel apart. I also liked that the hotel didn't try and nickel and dime you (free internet access is provided and spa access is free).
Every morning, I got in a nice workout and stint in the spa, followed by a nice breakfast in the hotel's restaurant. At the end of the day, I gladly sunk into one of the most comfortable beds I have experienced in a long time.
Don't forget to check out a few spots in Shepard's Bush and nearby Hammersmith. There are several great pubs and restaurants (i.e. Havelock Tavern) in walking distance of the hotel.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 31, 2002
K West Hotel
Hotel | "Sanderson"
There are two bars (one for hotel guests only and the main bar for anyone). The main bar definitely attracts a nice crowd (and everyone seemed to be dressed to hit the town). But I really liked the 'guest only' bar for the end of the evening. It was smaller and more intimate and easier to get a drink.
As for the rooms, I was very pleasantly surprised. Almost everything is white and minimal is the theme. My room had sheer curtains separating the main section of the room from the bathroom area (the shower and toilet did have a door) and it was pretty sexy walking around. This is a great place for a special evening with someone you are trying to impress.
I also liked the fact that the hotel had an awesome gym / spa. I only used the gym facilities but will try the spa the next time I go. It has an excellent reputation and my friends all wondered if I had gotten a chance to try it out.
Be prepared when you go to this motel. The night scene kicks in and there is a premium on pretty people. It inspired me to go out and I can't imagine just sitting in your room if you stay here.
You pay a premium for staying here, but all in all I would strongly recommend it. By the way, if you are choosing between the Sanderson and the St. Martin's Lane (the other Ian Schrager hotel in London), I definitely prefer the Sanderson.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 17, 2002
50 Berners Street
+44 207 3001400
Hotel | "Victoria Park Plaza"
Regarding the room, it had plenty of space and everything I needed. I particularly liked the bathroom, which had a frosted glass door, a neat tub, and a stylish glass counter and sink. The main sleeping area was fairly minimal, but certainly tastefully done. The bed was a little soft, but I had no problem sleeping. There was a high-speed (or dialup) Internet connection. The pricing for the Internet connection was fair (2.99 pounds for an hour of dialup; 10.99 for 24-hour dialup; 12.99 for 24-hour high-speed). There were electrical connections for every type of plug (i.e., U.S., European Union, England), which is nice if you don’t have an adapter. And the television had plenty of options in terms of channels, including access to six pay-per-view movies for only 10.95 pounds for 24 hours.
I was also impressed with the customer service and other services at the hotel. For example, I called the concierge to get an Ethernet cable for my Internet connection. The cable was delivered to my room in less than five minutes. I also got good recommendations for places to eat, help with taxi arrangements and excellent service at the bar. The bar was located next to the lobby and you could get a drink in a comfortable atmosphere until late into the night. Finally, the hotel had a nice workout facility. There were weight machines, free weights and exercise equipment. There was also a nice sauna and steam room. As far as hotel fitness centers go, this one ranked very high.
All said, I recommend this hotel. It is particularly nice for the business traveler who wants all of the services you need while on the road and a little bit of style.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 30, 2004
Victoria Park Plaza London
239 VAUXHALL BRIDGE ROAD
Hotel | "Hyde Park Paddington Hotel"
This was particularly surprising because I had read the information on the hotel’s website which talked about a charming boutique hotel. The outside of the hotel is in fact charming. It is in an attractive row of buildings that has a bit of character. The lobby is also relatively attractive, and little things like free apples and a nice staff are a good touch. But as I walked through the hall to my room, I noticed a few little things that I wasn’t overly crazy about (i.e., worn carpets, temporary room numbers on some of the doors, and lots of marks on the walls). Also, there was no elevator, so I had to carry a very heavy suitcase down a winding set of stairs to get to my room. That is when I discovered the space issue in room 019.
Once I got settled in, I took note of other things in the room. One, the high-speed Internet access was not available (broken, and the hotel did not have an Ethernet cable even if it had been working). Two, a large white fan was the first piece of room furniture I came across. It was nice to have the fan, but it took up quite a bit of the limited space. Three, the rooms were very noisy in the mornings (from people going in and out of their rooms and the maid closet). Finally, the pillows (on the otherwise comfortable bed) were not particularly comfortable.
The most positive thing I can say about this hotel is that I liked the location. It is about three blocks from Paddington Station (which makes it easy to get to and from Heathrow Airport), only a five-minute walk from Hyde Park (a place I like to run), and near Notting Hill (i.e., Portobello Road).
All said, it is difficult to recommend this hotel for the price I paid. But I must admit that when 5am rolled around on the morning I had to catch a 6:30am flight out of Heathrow, I was very glad to be staying at the Hyde Park Paddington. It literally took me two minutes to walk over to the Heathrow Express out of Paddington Station. Total time from room to Austrian Airlines ticket counter was 35 minutes.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on June 30, 2004
Shaftesbury Premier London Hyde Park
78 82 WESTBOURNE TERRACE
Paddinigton, London, England W2 6QA
44 207 745 1225
The rooms have plenty of space and are well adorned. Nothing is worn or outdated and you feel like you are staying in a nice hotel. The bed is very comfortable and there is plenty of space to spread out and settle in. I also liked that the room had everything I needed. For instance, there was an iron and ironing board built into the closet. I had high-speed Internet access, a nice television, access to the latest movies, a desk to work on, and a place to organize all of my clothes. The bathroom was also comfortable (plenty of space) and had nice soap items.
The bar in the hotel was open late and was a nice place to hang out. I particularly liked that you could get free wireless Internet access in the bar area. It was nice to be able to get some work done over a drink.
There is a limited fitness center. It has mostly exercise equipment (i.e., treadmills, rowing machine and bicycles, but no free weights or weight machines), and there is a large hot tub. I have seen nicer fitness centers, but it was more than adequate for a hotel.
Don’t hesitate to order room service or to eat in the restaurant at the hotel. The food is excellent. Also, you are in a great neighborhood for restaurants, so finding a place to eat is no big deal. I liked the restaurant across the street and highly recommend the pizzas.
Finally, the location of the hotel is fantastic. You are walking distance from the Strand (high-end shopping and restaurants), Covent Garden (funkier shopping and cafes), and SOHO (a bit more eclectic and lots of places to go out).
All said, I definitely recommend this hotel. It is not the cheapest choice, but you get a quality place to stay in one of my favorite parts of town.
Kingsway Hall Hotel
66 GREAT QUEEN STREET
44 20 73090909
As for the atmosphere, it is heavy on turquoise for some reason, but not in a bad way. The restaurant was stylish and attracted a young, hip crowd that grew as the night went on. After dinner, you are in walking distance of several Notting Hill pubs if you want to continue the evening.
115 Westbourne Grove
We ate in the more formal dining room (although formal is too strong a word)...you can also eat in the cafe/bar area.
I'm not as familiar with Greek food as with other types of cuisine, but I didn't have any trouble picking a great meal...although my choices are a bit blurry given all the wine we drank. I do remember having a wonderful grilled squid entree, much to the derision of my table mates. Their food was very nice (including the vegetarian option), but I enjoyed my choice.
All said, this is a great choice for dinner with friends particularly if you are looking for something different than curry or continental.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 19, 2002
The Real Greek
15 Hoxton Market
(020) 7739 8212
Attraction | "Shakespeare's Globe Theatre"
The Globe has been meticulously rebuilt in as authentic a manner as possible. The building materials and the architecture of the theatre (including the only thatched roof in London) are as true to the time of Shakespeare as is possible given modern building codes and a lack of definitive information on the theatre. You can take a tour for about 12 pounds and learn about the secrets of the construction of the theatre as well as the workings of a typical Shakespeare play...including an explanation of the symbolism on the stage and the general mechanics of the productions. Plays are still performed from May to September (Shakespeare plays of course).
The Tate Modern is right next door and is a nice way to round out a trip to this side of the river.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 1, 2002
21 New Globe Walk, Bankside
London, England SE1 9DT
+44 20 7902 1400
Everyone has an opinion about the outside of the building. My opinion...it is a pretty ugly structure that represents all of the worst of modernism...function over form, boxy, etc. But what do you expect from a converted factory. It seems people either love the building or hate it. But don't let that influence you one way or another. The art is the real draw...and the view across the Thames isn't half bad either.
I am a little jaded because MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art) in New York is my frame of reference, but I still found the exhibits to be very interesting and well rounded. I will never understand some modern art, but I was amused, bemused, bewildered, enlightened and even a bit put off by different pieces...all-in-all the desired reaction when viewing a wide range of modern art.
There are five floors of exhibits and you can spend hours if you read up on all of the pieces of art. If you want to hear from the artists, rent a set of headphones and get a 'guided' tour. The special exhibit at the time I was there was Andy Warhol. Not my favorite artist, but an interesting exhibit nonetheless.
Admission to the museum is free (except you must pay extra for the special exhibit - Andy Warhol in this case). It gets a little crowded on the weekends, but the space is so massive you don't really notice.
Take the time to enjoy the view of the city from the upper floors of the museum and stop by the Globe Theatre next door before leaving the area.
London SE1 9TG
+44 20 7887 8000
Attraction | "Kensington Gardens / Hyde Park"
My favorite sites included the Albert Memorial (see below), the Serpentine (the large lake), the Italian fountains, and the Garden walk. Every direction you turn you will find something interesting or historical. You will also find gardens galore with a surprisingly beautiful selection of flowers. Finally, you will see people relaxing, rollerblading, kissing, talking and generally just having a good time.
Take your time and walk around the park. End up in the Southeast corner and walk through Wellington's Arch into Green Park (next to Buckingham Palace) if you want even more gardens and park space.
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
W Carriage Drive
London, England W2 2UH
+44 20 7298 2100
Attraction | "Imperial War Museum"
Regarding location, this museum is a bit removed from other attractions. The neighborhood is a bit rougher than on the other side of the Thames, but it is worth the effort. It also sets you up to see the Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe (which are also on this side of the river).
Admission is free.
Imperial War Museum London
London, England SE1 6HZ
+44 (20) 7416 5000
Charlotte, North Carolina